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When marketers think of customer engagement, they usually automatically think of social media. But while networks such as Twitter and Facebook provide a great starting point, customer-centric brands know that being tuned in to your customers requires more than social listening.

We talk to many customers who integrate the understanding they get from their insight communities with social media, transactional and behavioral data. Customer engagement is more powerful when you consider all sources of customer intelligence - ultimately fusing listening, asking and observational insights into a holistic and narrative that can drive organizational impact.

More brands are realizing that customer engagement needs to evolve. And as this week's reads show, brands are looking beyond social in order to cultivate their relationship with their customers. Here are three tips on customer engagement that you may not have think of in the past:

1. Ask for permission.

Technologies that enable social listening and Web tracking let CMOs and their teams get a more accurate picture of what customers do online. Marketing automation tools can help you understand what customers are looking for and how brands can fill in the gaps. From mobile apps to cars, brands are finding new ways of getting consumer data.

But, as we've seen with the public's reactions to the NSA scandal, customers aren't always OK with data-gathering tactics. Indeed, our own investigation shows that eight out of ten Americans, Canadians, and Britons are opposed to private companies' use of information gathered from customers' online activity. No wonder there's increasing public pressure to regulate data protection.

Considering that "do not track" laws are imminent, marketing teams can benefit from getting ahead of the privacy curve. To avoid intruding on their customers' privacy, marketers should ask for permission before gathering data in the first place. Gaining consent will help build customer confidence - an important ingredient in encouraging people to speak to you. - Tyler Douglas, Vision Critical CMO, on MarketingProfs

TWEET THIS: To get closer to the customer voice, ask for permission before using their data.

2. Create your own community.

The promise of Facebook and other social networks was an army of advocates. Now, only a small portion of a brand's social following, roughly 5% in Facebook, actually drives word-of-mouth results. Often, brands have no idea who these individuals are, nor do they have an efficient way to activate them. And, with increasing social fragmentation, marketers have to dedicate more and more resources to develop content for each social channel so it resonates and adheres to the unwritten rules of conduct for that specific network. And who knows what social network will emerge in the future?

These challenges have many asking the question: "Should I build my brand community on a social networking site?"

For many brands, the answer is that it's time to take back your community and recognize that the real opportunity is the chance to leverage the 5% that can drive results for you.

Now is the optimal time for brands to introduce the next stage in the influencer and advocacy ecosystem: brand-owned communities of advocates. An owned community is valuable because it's a database that you control, allowing for direct communication that builds loyalty -- a group where the most passionate are easily identified and where the activity is measurable. It's a conduit for constant feedback and a missing link between CRM and social. - Susan Frech on AdAge

TWEET THIS: Is it time brands take their communities back from social networks? @SueFrech's #marketing insight part of this roundup:

3. Engage niche groups.

Let's take Lady Gaga as an example of smart community building. Although she has millions of fans in her "little monsters" community, she only engages with a small percentage of ultra engagers and strongest influencers who are invited to belong to private sub-community. She knows that it would be impossible and impractical to interact with everyone. But she does know that her superfan "little monsters" will go to great lengths to create content, artwork and memes about the superstar. If they do something extraordinary, Lady Gaga engages with them, one on one. She has learned to reward the top contributors of her community with interaction - what they want - and she is rewarded with content created by her community, artwork sold on things like t-shirts sold at the concerts, which is what she wants - a strong, active, loyal and passionate community of followers. A win/win!

Community building is an art form that is quickly evolving. Now, we see them segmented as "friendship circles" "interest circles" and "business circles". But we will see more and more, segmented niche groups emerging, with specific ways to contribute our ideas to more thinly sliced areas of interest. - Bryan Kramer on

TWEET THIS: Integrated niche communities is the future. #Marketing insight from @bryankramer, part of @visioncritical roundup:

How to Use an Insight Community to Improve Customer Experience

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